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26495, Black Republicans talk about the GOP
Posted by naame, Mon Feb-21-05 06:28 AM
Black Republicans talk about the GOP

Black Republicans talk about the GOP
Some say whites don't want a 'darker party'
Published on: 02/18/05
A roundtable discussion was held at the Northside bureau of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with six African-American men and woman who describe themselves as politically conservative and who support the Republican Party. The group fielded a variety of questions about race and politics from Northside reporter Adrianne Murchison and Todd C. Duncan,the Northside editor.


What can Republicans do to attract more African-Americans to the party?
Spotlight the efforts of high-profile African-Americans who support Republican agendas.
Spend campaign money and time in the black community.
Spread the Republican platform on black radio, TV shows and publications.
Develop stronger ties with black churches and other institutions.
Nothing. The message should speak for itself.

Voter Limit: Once per Day
View Poll Results

The participants were Sherry Gould of Dunwoody, Ray Cobb of Gwinnett, Leoni Harris of Roswell, Ed Adiotomre of Marietta, Kristi Hullum of east Cobb and Al Bartell of Atlanta.

See the participants

AJC: How do you define being a conservative?

Cobb: I'm thinking more of behavioral type things like taking personal responsibility. Beliefs and behaviors that move you to the next level. That resonates with me more than anything.

Hullum: To me, conservatism goes back to family structure. And to me it goes back to accountability and morals.

Bartell: Conservatism for me means to have a reliable base for national defense and to take a leadership role in defense of the international community, being the superpower that we are.

I'm as much for peace as anybody. Peace having a strong defense. Democrats want without having a powerful reference point. It concerns me that that liberal view puts us all at risk internationally for weapons of mass destruction.

AJC: Is a strong value system something you think is not prevalent in the Democratic Party?

Cobb: For me it's not. For example, Armstrong Williams big snafu with him. He comes out and says, "Hey, I was wrong. I shouldn't have done it and I apologize." If I typically see a Democratic politician, they're going to fight it nail and tooth, even though they know it was really wrong. That's just the big picture for me, not taking responsibility when it's clearly wrong. Especially if you're stealing money from the state or the city or whatever, and then you say, "Oh, why are you indicting me?" taking responsibility.

AJC: President Bush has been criticized for not acknowledging mistakes he may have made along the way. Is that criticism valid?

Cobb: For me it's about when he gets information. This is a dynamic situation that he's making decisions upon. This thing is moving. One piece of information might be relevant at one minute and the next minute, no. So, if you do hindsight quarterbacking, then he made some bad mistakes. I think we can clearly cite some things he probably should have done differently. I don't know if he would satisfy the public if he said, "Hey, I really did make a big, big boo-boo."

Harris: has to make the ultimate decisions that are best for everyone involved. . . . I don't see anyone praising him when he does something good.

AJC: Is conservatism more about issues like national defense or is it about personal accountability and family values?

Gould: I don't think it's any one thing.

Cobb: If I get rid of this idea of national security, I'm still left with my personal responsibility at the end of the day. If the world changes. I'm still left with my responsibility.

I grew up in Chicago didn't accept welfare. I had a brother and a sister. If my mom had taken welfare, no one would have blamed her in the 1960s. She chose a different route for herself. She worked her way, retired ultimately from AT&T after 30 years. And to get that support, she had tomove us to Toledo, Ohio, when I was in high school because her mom was there. There was much more of a support system.

AJC: Most African-Americans tend to vote Democratic. Do you think their values differ from yours?

Harris: Not much.

Gould: That's the one thing that's always surprised me. Georgia Democrats were always very different from the rest of the United States. Much more conservative family values, until probably the 1990 election when you really started to see the change . I don't think the blacks in the South changed much on how they feel about family values, but they're not willing to leave the Democratic Party. Having grown up in Atlanta and with of Martin Luther King Jr. in your ear every three seconds, I don't see it happening.

Harris: I was at a function over the Christmas holiday, and there were many African-Americans talking about the election. They all stated that they voted for Bush because he was the lesser of two evils.

Cobb: I think most of us are saying no . Rev. Creflo Dollar was on CNN and was asked who were his political idols. He said, "George Bush."

If that's who he considers an idol, then he is imparting some of that onto his large congregation. So, I clearly don't see them different from us.

went into an African-American church, and I heard what was coming from the pulpit and when I heard the concerns and issues of African-Americans, I thought I was at a GOP convention.

I think have a difficulty with saying, "Oh, I'm a Republican," because the broader Republican Party has a branding problem. Some have a little bit of difficulty with the whole thing possibly becoming darker.

AJC: What do you mean by that?

Cobb: The party becoming darker, the way it was with the Democrats. I was down in South Georgia and a lot of folks are really happy with the Republican Party. We've done a heck of a job out there working for them. But I don't think folks want people to say at , "Wow, the Republican Party's becoming more and more African-American. Now, where are we gonna go?' "

It's kind of that Catch-22.

AJC: Where is the disconnect between the Republicans and how you feel as black person in this country, state and community?

Bartell: The disconnect is in leadership. Many positions by leaders in the Republican Party have been dictated by special interest groups. Particularly corporate special interest groups. There needs to be a new kind of leadership that understands the diversity of America and is willing to include that voice in the public policy process.

Cobb: agree on that. In Georgia especially.

Gould: One of my problems with the Republican Party is that it does not ever court the black vote. They won't spend any time or energy trying to recruit us or trying to re-educate people about what they really stand for in the black community. We have all these ideas in our community about what the Republican Party stands for, and a lot of those notions are based on things that are not true.

Hullum: I think there is just an ignorance today, which is surprising because there is so much information available to us. People don't even understand what the Republican Party is. just black and white.

Harris: Rich and poor.

Hullum: I have a lot of friends who seem confused when I tell them I'm a Republican.

AJC: Why hasn't the party been able to articulate its message to African-Americans, especially with high-profile spokespeople like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice?

Hullum: I'm sure there are many answers, but the one thing is people put a wall up, and they don't change something that they're accustomed to. It's an uncomfortable feeling to jump out of something that they've always had for however many years. So they'd rather stay here , rather than think about what you're talking about or try to do any research about what's going on.

Gould: I think it's also a problem in the black community between the wealthy and are not going to listen.

AJC: Do you feel the need to teach other African-Americans about Republican positions?

Hullum: Definitely.

Bartell: The only opportunity is an opportunity to teach. I don't think Republican leadership to understand diversity. What I expect is for those of us who are of African descent, whether they're African-American or not, to teach the leadership of the Republican Party and teach members of the black community.

Gould: How do we do that when a lot of us aren't even out of the closet? I do it myself sometimes when I'm with a group of people, if I feel like it's not going to be well received, I'll keep my mouth shut.

AJC: How does that impact your discussions at the grocery store or at the cocktail party when your political affiliation comes up.

Harris: I had an experience with one of my clients who saw a Bush/Cheney sticker on my car. She went home and told her husband. He called and said he was very disappointed in me. Three hours long on the phone.

AJC: Were you discussing the issues or just his disappointment?

Harris: Actually, we talked about the war in Iraq, No Child Left Behind Act, poverty. . . . Bush does everything wrong.

AJC: Did he understand your point of view by the end of the conversation?

Harris: No. He's a Democrat. And you know what's funny about this, is that he makes over $200,000 per year. He lives in Alpharetta, and he talked about how the rich Republicans kept abusing the poor black people.

Gould: But he wasn't one of them.

Bartell: On a personal note about the everyday life of being a black Republican or a black conservative. I get called a traitor, and a racist. I get accused of supporting the white man's agenda, and interacting with black folks like they're still slaves and I'm the spook by the door. My emotions are hurt at times and I have to calm down and think about the bigger picture. When I get called those names, I am hurt and disappointed. I feel demeaned and there are times when I question the core of what I'm doing. It's there everyday. I run into it in the grocery store and at the mall. I run into it if I'm driving down the street with a sticker on my car that says Bush/Cheney.

Cobb: With African-Americans happen not to be Republicans, my interaction is, "I'm Ray Cobb and I happen to be black just like you. . . . And, yeah, I eat collard greens just like you."

I don't get out of our culture. I don't bring to them a whole different trip like being Republican is something different than being African-American. As long as I stay within our culture I find that most people are OK with me, and they also tolerate me talking about Republicans.

They don't say anything. They just go along, as long as they know we're cool, and I don't mind a bid whist party, they're with me. I kind of just keep within that orbit, and don't separate that culture that I love, that my mom raised me on, just because I'm a Republican. I'm always going to be African-American. So for me it's worked.

Hullum: is just a different view. does hurt. It's rejection whatever form it is whether it's because you're black, Republican or Democrat. I just think that's unfair. I don't think you should be treated any differently just because you belong to the Republican Party.

AJC: Do you think the traditional civil rights organizations still serve a purpose?

Bartell: Yes, and I think conservative black Republicans have an opportunity and an obligation to get civil rights organizations back to what they are supposed to be doing. They were designed to dismantle barriers to participation in the American dream. Now, civil rights organizations are a showcase for leadership on demand by certain people.

Cobb: I don't think we should forget civil rights, but the focus needs to shift to economic parity. Unless we acquire the fund-raising and grass-roots skills to go out there and organize and raise money, we're never going to have that parity.

And unless we're contributing to the civil rights organizations. . . . Once we give them a million dollars, we can say, "You're out and this is the focus." Money talks.

I look at the and they're always saying, "Gimme money." When I look at the funding from the alumni in the last two years, some of those schools only received $10,000.

AJC: How do you feel about the government-funded social programs and the health care system?

Adiotomre: Being a conservative doesn't mean I'm against providing a safety net for people who are really down and out. I'm just against providing a safety net for people that don't need it.

I always hear Democrats when you talk to them and tell them you are conservative say, "Oh, you're against kids getting free lunch at school." I'm against people that can afford it not providing lunch for their kids.

Harris: It's all based on ignorance. They are afraid. They don't understand how things work and they are afraid to do anything other than what they are comfortable with. They're used to going to get the free lunch and nobody told them, "Look, you can go and get a job and buy the lunch for your child and they can grow up with some kind of respect."

Gould: I don't have a problem with government programs. I have a problem with the waste in them. I have a problem with thinking that we can continually fix it by throwing money at a bad process. So do we need programs? We're always going to need something, but its becoming a pit for wasteful spending is what I'm against.

AJC: Now that the General Assembly is overwhelmingly Republican, what do you all expect locally from your leadership on the state level and in your community?

Bartell: Now that the Republican leadership is in there, I want to see them include neighborhood leaders in the economic development policy for growth in the suburban areas. I'm very interested in holding them accountable for doing that. I don't think the Democratic leadership did a good job over the years of involving in planning green space and zoning for commercial corridors.

Cobb: I go down to the whenever I can. When I think of expectations, I'm thinking of how do we strengthen the relationships that African-American Republicans have with the Republican Party as a whole. Now let's go beyond politics and look at how we broaden the group of people to get ideas from, and put folks in visible positions where they can start to have an impact on the process. That's really what I'm looking for. How do we get a real seat at the table?

AJC: Is the greater Republican Party listening?

Cobb: I know for a fact they're not.

AJC: Where else do you differ from the party?

Adiotomre: I have this core belief that if you let government do anything, the only thing they can do is mess it up. Republicans used to preach that the best government is as small as possible. The last four years they're just like, "It's OK, as long it's a Republican government." That really bothers me.

I know there are of the Republican Party who are upset with that. Everybody bit their tongue during the last election because they wanted George Bush to come back again. I differ from the party on our unilateral approach to foreign policy. I was outraged with going to war in Iraq without an exit strategy. And I'm disappointed with now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's direction. I promoted Colin Powell's approach .

AJC: Where does your personal faith play a role in your decision to be a Republican? The presidential election was awash in religion-based issues.

Cobb: For evangelicals, yeah, but for me it's not. I'm much more focused on fiscal matters.

Gould: It especially played a huge part in my vote in this last election. I would love to be able to say that I separate my religious faith from my political views, but the truth is, having grown up in the South and gone to church every other day, it's a part of my makeup. I can't separate it.

Harris: I just believe was the man of the hour. Based on my beliefs, he was the one that should be here and this was his mission. And so he has to finish it.

Bartell: My faith played a very little role in my politics. I have a passion for inclusion. Wherever that is lacking or nonexistent is where my politics drives me.



Age: 37

Profession: Information systems analyst/project manager

Residence: Dunwoody

Years in GOP: 25

"My family talked about politics a lot around the Thanksgiving table. And I decided when I was 12 that I was a Republican."



Age: 43

Profession: Regional sales representative and owner of a public relations and lobbying firm

Residence: Gwinnett near the north Fulton border

Years in GOP: Since the 1980s.

"I grew up on the south side of Chicago. I just became self-reliant. When I grew up and heard Ronald Reagan talking on television, and it was time for me to vote, that thing just spoke to me. I consider myself a little more than average because I've gotten involved in a couple of campaigns here. I've been involved heavily for the last year and a half. I'm also a board member on the Georgia Black Republican Council."



Age: 45

Profession: Day care center owner

Residence: Roswell

Years in GOP: 16 years

"I too grew up in a conservative home. I have been involved in campaigns and everything there is to do with the Republican Party."



Age: 40

Profession: CPA

Residence: Marietta (Came to this country from Nigeria 20 years ago)

Years in GOP: 20

"My parents were heavily into politics. I come from a background of conservative thinking, and had a view that you had to be self-reliant, so I'm naturally drawn to the Republican Party."



Age: 35

Profession: Sandy Springs boutique owner

Residence: East Cobb

Years in GOP: One.

"I knew that I shared Republican values, but I claimed the Democratic Party because I grew up . I'm and now looking at myself without my husband next to me. I have realized that the Republican Party is where I should be."



Age: 49

Profession: Certified mediator in public policy management covering the NorthSide, East Cobb, West Forsyth, West DeKalb, and West Gwinnett

Residence: West End, Atlanta

Years in GOP: Since mid-1970s.

"I am glad to see these kinds of dialogues are happening for conservative black Republicans."

Nowadays silence is looked on as odd and most of my race has forgotten the beauty of meaning much by saying little."

-- From Toni Morrison's new book, "Love"

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in most parts of Africa, ain't NOWHERE hiring. i mean people with degrees go for years without being able to get a job at some fast food joint. everybody's just hustling with whatever they have to make something out of nothing


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